Student scientists hypothesize, experiment at science fair

May 20, 2023

ROCHESTER — Rochester Memorial School student Lillian Porter, 11, had a simple question: What are people afraid of?

Together with classmate Delaney Vieira, 10, they set out to find an answer with a “social experiment” that asked 26 people about their “worst fears.”

She found that most people were afraid of heights and death.

According to Porter, the idea for this experiment came from a fight with her mom.

“She didn’t believe that my fear of stink bugs was a real fear and I wanted to see if other people thought the same,” said Porter.

“It started off with this whole stink bug thing and then it just kind of became [about] general fears,” added Vieira.

Porter and Vieira put these findings on display along with other budding scientists and engineers at Rochester Memorial School’s “STEAMapalooza” on Thursday, May 18.

Students participated in the STEAMapalooza by entering a submission to the science fair portion of the event either as individuals or groups.

The projects could either use the scientific method to conduct an experiment or create an invention to solve a problem by following the engineering design process.

Ava Gagliardi, 7, experimented with sound, using a tuning fork to create vibrations that could make ripples in water.

“You can’t see sounds,” said Gagliardi. “But you can learn about it and you can hear it.”

At her table, Gagliardi demonstrated how vibrations from sound can move through different objects and materials.

According to Gagliardi, she wants to study “sound or how people talk … because [sound] starts somewhere in your body and I want to know where it comes from.”

While some students dabbled in the theoretical side of science, others, like “seven-and-a-quarter-year-old” Archer Latham and partner Christian Rosa, showed off their engineering skills by building a trash-collecting robot inspired by the 2008 Pixar film “WALL-E.”

“It’s built to help Earth Day by picking up trash,” said Latham.

However, Latham admits the robot still needs a few tweaks.

“So far it hasn’t even gotten one [piece of trash] in the bucket right there,” said Latham. “But it can pick up trash.”

According to Latham, he made sure the robot’s “hands” had a lot of friction to hold trash in place, but the robot itself wasn’t strong enough to lift many pieces of trash.

Latham added that if he could do the project over again, he would have made the robot taller, that way it could reach the opening of the trash bucket.

He hopes that in the future trash will be collected by “really cool” robots that are “white and shiny — you know, like future robots.”

In a demonstration, Latham showed how the robot could drive forward, bend over and pick up a can of Diet Coke.

"The night was a great success and a true example of how STEAM education sparks a great deal of creativity and innovation among our students," said Rochester Memorial School Principal Derek Medeiros.